Position: Pitcher; third baseman
Team: Cleveland Spiders, 1894-1898
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, 1899-1901, 1917-1918; St. Louis Browns, 1902-1916
When Rhoderick John Wallace (1873-1960) was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1953, he was the first former American League shortstop to be enshrined. Since Wallace never played on a pennant winner, was a failure as a manager, and had a career batting average of only .266, the presumed reason for his selection is that he was a great fielder.
No doubt Wallace was a great fielder, but even here the ground is somewhat shaky. He played in an era when the best fielders were not necessarily record setters or fielding-average leaders and so long ago that only anecdotal material can be offered in support of his glove prowess.
Bobby Wallace was known as a great fielder in an era
when there were no statistics to back up that notion.
What can be stated is that Wallace began his career as a pitcher and leaped straight from the amateur ranks in western Pennsylvania to the Cleveland Spiders in 1894. Thrashed in his first start, he went on to win two games before the season ended. Relegated to spot starting assignments by 1896, Wallace was informed the following spring that he would be replacing the recently departed Chippy McGarr at third base.
Despite never before having played the hot corner on a regular basis, Bobby had in some ways his finest season in 1897. He hit .335 and also registered career highs in hits, runs, slugging average, triples, and RBI.
After a less successful season statistically in 1898, Wallace moved to St. Louis the next year along with most of Cleveland's better players and was switched to shortstop to replace a fading Ed McKean. By 1901, Bobby was generally recognized as the best shortstop in the majors.
Wallace's salary was frozen at $2,400, however, the maximum NL owners would pay, so he jumped to the crosstown St. Louis Browns in the American League for a reported five-year, $32,500 contract that included a no-trade clause.
In retrospect, Wallace might have regretted that contingency, for he labored 15 seasons with the Browns, most of them spent on teams that finished deep in the second division. Too, Honus Wagner usurped Bobby's title as the game's best shortstop.
Here are Bobby Wallace's major league totals:
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